The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t need to trade Ryan Hartman to the Nashville Predators on Monday afternoon. He’s still on his entry-level deal this season and won’t break the bank on his next contract as an RFA this summer. For once, this wasn’t the team trading a guy because they knew they couldn’t afford him.
And from that position of strength, the Blackhawks were able to yield a 2018 first-round pick, forward prospect Victor Ejdsell, and a swap of mid-round draft picks that, all things considered, appears to be a strong return.
Yes, it’s understandable to be disappointed that Hartman is gone. It’s reasonable to wonder whether the Hawks just let go a talented forward who could’ve been a part of their next good team. There’s always a chance that a deal like this, where you’re giving up a 23-year-old former first-round pick, comes back to bite you.
But based on my own immediate reaction to the trade, I’m surprised that so many people are down on it. The Blackhawks didn’t just dump Hartman on a division rival for the hell of it. This was an opportunity to get a strong return on a player who didn’t need to be dealt, which is frankly the kind of move that GM Stan Bowman didn’t make enough in recent years.
Hartman, for all of the good things that he brings to the table, has played at a 0.40 points per game pace in the NHL. That’s an average of 33 points per 82 games, which is solid for a bottom-six contributor but hardly a loss that’ll make or break the team. Versatility and a bit of grit only provide so much value.
And while his presence was clearly a positive on a $863,333 cap hit with his ELC, the math becomes more complicated over the summer when he’ll command a raise as an RFA. If the question is whether you’d rather have Hartman at a roughly $2 million cap hit for two more years or the bevy of future assets that Nashville gave up, the Blackhawks had a tough decision to make. I’d argue they made the correct choice.
The reality here is that Hartman never would’ve moved just for the sake of it. What compelled the Blackhawks to ultimately pull the trigger here is that Nashville offered up what they asked for. Nobody was going to let Hartman get traded for a third-round pick and scraps.
The Blackhawks are trying to move into the future, and Hartman could’ve been a part of that. But too many times in the past, the team held on to players too long. This is the opposite of that, and while there’s risk in seeing what Hartman does from here, Bowman seems to have done well with his big deadline deal.